Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.7.21

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Good morning: Here's your first look at the issues behind today's Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Veteran communications professional Jenn Meale Poggie is hanging out her shingle.

Poggie, who has worked in the field for 20 years, launched Pinnacle Media on Thursday. The Brown University alum spent the past year working as a senior account manager of Public Affairs at Sachs Media, one of the top public relations firms in the state.

“I’m thrilled to be fulfilling my lifelong dream of starting my own communications and marketing firm. Starting my own business is truly a silver lining of the pandemic, giving me the ability to meet the needs of both my clients and my family. I’ll miss the wonderful team at Sachs Media, where the people felt more like family than co-workers,” she said.

Before Sachs Media, Poggie held communications positions at several government agencies.

She spent the mid-aughts as Leon County Schools’ Public Information Officer before moving into state government in 2008 as Communications Director for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

She later served as assistant press secretary to former Gov. Rick Scott, Communications Director for the Attorney General’s office under Pam Bondi, and Communications Director for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Her communications experience includes litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court, criminal justice, crisis communications, behavioral health care, health care, agriculture and more.

The new shop launches with an endorsement from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who called Poggie “a skilled, results-driven communicator.”

“When I worked alongside her as the Florida Attorney General’s Drug Czar in the fight against prescription drug abuse, she helped raise awareness about the dangers of opioid abuse and supported policy to crack down on pill mills through earned and social media efforts,” he said.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@ConnorOBrienNH: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin out with a warning on a debt default, saying he can’t ensure troops, civilians, and contractors would get paid on time or in full. “If the United States defaults, it would undermine the economic strength on which our national security rests.”

@MiniMaxir: Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook doesn’t push content that makes people angry. But anger is a matter of perspective: the top posts on FB pages like Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino, and others listed by @FacebooksTop10 don’t have Angry reacts, they have Love and Wow reacts.

Tweet, tweet:

@FrancisSuarez: I am so humbled to be surrounded by such an amazing family and my incredible colleagues. This year has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my career and I wouldn’t have made it through without the entire Miami community

@ChrisCillizza: Watched the 1st episode of “Squid Game” tonight. Holy crap.

— DAYS UNTIL —

’No Time to Die’ premieres — 1; ’Succession’ returns — 11; ’Dune’ premieres — 15; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 17; World Series Game 1 — 19; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 20; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 20; Georgia at UF — 23; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 26; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 26; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 29; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 29; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 31; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 32; Miami at FSU — 35; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 38; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 42; FSU vs. UF — 51; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 55; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 61; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 64; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 71; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 76; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 83; CES 2022 begins — 90; NFL season ends — 94; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 96; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 96; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 97; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 99; NFL playoffs begin — 100; Super Bowl LVI — 129; Daytona 500 — 136; St. Pete Grand Prix — 143; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 169; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 213; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 232; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 238; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 274; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 286; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 365; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 400.

— TOP STORY —

College football stadiums packed, but no apparent pandemic outbreaks (so far)” via Elisabell Velazquez of Fresh Take Florida — In back-to-back weekends last month for No. 20 University of Florida, roughly 90,000 people crowded into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where there were no requirements for vaccinations, masks or social distancing. Infection numbers on campus didn’t escalate dramatically in the days or weeks afterward, which would cover the typical COVID-19 incubation window. At Florida, the school has diagnosed an average of 16 positive cases each day since the semester began. Homecoming is this weekend, another test of the public health risk in the stadium. Have crowded college football stadiums turned out safer than everyone expected? Infection numbers were also low — and dropping — at football schools across Florida. The Seminoles lost a nail-biter in their home opener to Notre Dame, with more than 68,000 in the crowded stadium. Florida State tested 2,745 students, faculty and staff and recorded only 88 positive cases on campus over two weeks. Now in a bye week, the school has its next home game on Oct. 23 during its homecoming weekend.

Superspreader event? Time will tell. Image via Gabriela Villamonte/Fresh Take Florida.

— STATEWIDE —

“‘Constant stress’: Floridians struggle with unemployment overpayments” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The Department of Economic Opportunity is trying to claw back possibly billions of dollars in nonfraudulent unemployment claims distributed during the first 18 months of the pandemic. Thousands of Floridians received stern letters warning them they face being sent to collections if they didn’t reimburse the state. So how many unemployment recipients, through no fault of their own, must now pay back previous “overpaid” benefits? The state doesn’t know. “It’s been a constant stress for so many Floridians,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat who has helped tens of thousands of Floridians with their unemployment claims.

Anna Eskamani works hard to relieve the stress that comes with unemployment in Florida. Image via Twitter.

Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court releases scheduled weekly opinions, 11 a.m.

State schedules Oct. 29 hearing for new personal care attendant nursing home rule” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Agency for Health Care Administration announced it is moving forward with a regulation that lays the groundwork for the use of personal care attendants in Florida nursing homes, and that it will hold a meeting on the proposal in Tallahassee Oct. 29. The announcement comes after AHCA Deputy Secretary for Quality Assurance Kim Smoak told members of a House health care panel that, barring any challenges, the agency thinks the rules can be finalized by the end of the year. Until then, the temporary program put into effect by former AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew remains in effect. Smoak said the agency would work with the various associations on the rules to avoid any challenge.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Wilton Simpson: ‘Damn right’ way to raise Florida corrections officer pay is by closing prisons” via John Haughey of The Center Square — The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) has transferred 3,500 inmates and 1,500 staff to other facilities after closing three prisons because of a shortage of corrections officers. DOC Secretary Mark Inch is asking state lawmakers for $171 million to increase corrections officers’ starting salaries from $33,400 a year, or $16.70 per hour, to $41,600 annually, or $20 an hour, to fill 5,000 vacancies. But while there’s bipartisan support for raising corrections officers’ salaries again — lawmakers did so in 2020 and authorized a transition from 12-hour to eight-hour shifts this year — Inch’s request has drawn a fusillade of reproach from Senate President Simpson, a Trilby Republican.

Wilton Simpson bristles at the suggestion that corrections officers get another across-the-board pay raise.

Legislature to consider more than $100 million in relief compensation for 17 tragedies” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics+ — All totaled, the Legislature is looking at relief bills for the 2022 Legislative Session totaling more than $103 million in additional compensation payments for people severely injured or killed in car crashes, shootings, public hospital malpractice, other incidents, or wrongful incarcerations. One bill does not specify a relief amount. In many of the cases — though not all — courts have already sorted out who got hurt and who was at fault. Judgments have been rendered or settlements signed by the parties and approved by the courts. The only question remaining in those cases is whether the compensation is so inadequate that the state should step in and do more.

As Florida loses yet another show to another state, can a rebate program revive the state’s film industry?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics+ — A new series being shot for Netflix feels ridiculously Florida. It’s about a former cop. It centers around how organized crime can be a strange attraction for strange women. Heck, it even has Florida in its name. Yet, “Florida Man“ started filming in August — in Wilmington. As in Wilmington, North Carolina. WSFX reports the series, about a protagonist’s “increasingly futile attempt to do the right thing in a place where so much is wrong,” is shooting on Tar Heel State beaches posing as Florida sand. It’s not the decidedly negative outlook on moral corruption in the Sunshine State that bothers John Lux, executive director of Film Florida.

Constitutional carry legislation might have legs in 2022 Florida Session” via Jake Stofan of News 4 Jax — Some top Florida Republican lawmakers have now said they would support constitutional carry legislation in the upcoming session. The policy would allow all legal gun owners to carry firearms without a concealed weapons license. The constitutional carry legislation was filed by the Legislature’s most outspoken conservative member, Rep. Anthony Sabatini. “Our very liberal Republican Speaker Chris Sprowls has gotten tens of thousands of emails from gun groups,” said Sabatini. The policy is split into two bills. The first would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a license. “You don’t have to go ask the government for permission,” said Sabatini. The second would allow for open carry.

Matt Willhite, Shevrin Jones’ bills say ‘no way’ to no-cash businesses” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A growing number of businesses, from concessions at sporting events to restaurants and big-box chain stores, have stopped accepting cash as payment for goods and services, forcing people to use debit or credit cards or technology to pay their tab. Bills filed Wednesday by Rep. Willhite and Sen. Jones, though, would end the no-cash practice by requiring most Florida businesses, from food trucks to health care providers, to accept cash as payment for goods and services for in-store purchases. Willhite likens the requirement in his bill (HB 233) to a 2015 Florida law requiring cities, counties, and the state to fly only flags that are made in America.

Cash is king for Matt Willhite and Shevrin Jones.

Broward Superintendent wants lawmakers to ensure ‘full transition’ from standardized testing” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright pressed lawmakers Thursday to follow through on Ron DeSantis’ promise to end annual standardized testing for Florida’s students. Last month, DeSantis said he intends to end the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) and replace it with a progress monitoring program. On Wednesday, the Broward legislative delegation held a workshop with the Broward County School Board to discuss the school district’s agenda for the 2022 Legislative Session. Cartwright attended the meeting and discussed the planned changes, which are still in their early stages. She asked lawmakers to fully break from the existing FSA system while formulating Florida’s new monitoring program.

Happening today — The Marion County legislative delegation meets: Sens. Dennis Baxley, Jennifer Bradley, Keith Perry; Reps. Brett Hage, Joe Harding, Yvonne Hinson, Stan McClain, 1 p.m., College of Central Florida, Klein Conference Center, 3001 S.W. College Road, Ocala.

Happening today — The Investiture of Justice John Couriel as the 90th Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, 4 p.m. Eastern time, Florida Supreme Court courtroom, 500 South Duval Street. Tallahassee.

Controversial Surgeon General opens Twitter account” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Florida’s new Surgeon General will be accessible via social media, at least for the foreseeable future. Dr. Joseph Ladapo launched his Twitter account Wednesday, and already it earned a follow by the Florida Department of Health’s own @HealthyFla account. “Excited to be on Twitter! I look forward to engaging with you all and discussing our efforts at (FDOH). We will continue promoting public health excellence in our great state,” Ladapo vowed. “Well, you can start by telling your boss to stop going after educators that want to keep our kids safe via mask mandates. And you can actually, you know, give sound medical advice,” asserted Rep. Angie Nixon, who represents House District 14.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Melody Arnold, RSA Consulting Group: AdventHealth, Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Florida Association of Community Health Centers, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Northside Mental Health Center, Premier Community HealthCare Group, Suncoast Community Health Center, Tampa Family Health Centers

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette: Banyan Health Systems

Emily Buckley, Dean Mead: Dosal Tobacco Corporation

Kevin Cabrera, Mercury Public Affairs: The Motivational Edge

Ken Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Osceola County

Laura Lenhart, Jessica Love, Kirk Pepper, Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Alliance for Safety and Justice

Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Lyon, Andy Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: TikTok

Thomas McCullion, NorthPointe: OneStream, Roeing

— CORONA FLORIDA —

COVID-19 in Florida: State reports 3,782 new cases, drops to 44th among states in cases per capita” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 3,782 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as the state dropped to 44th among states in cases per capita and seventh in deaths per capita. The state also increased its COVID-19-related death count by three on Wednesday; but deaths are counted on the day they occur, not the day they are reported, and can take up to two weeks or more to be reflected in the data. The average for new cases dropped to 4,030, the lowest it has been since July 10. There have been at least 3,594,182 COVID-19 cases and 55,625 deaths in Florida since the start of the pandemic.

Ron DeSantis claims victory after HHS report on vaccines” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis is again praising his COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan after the federal government published a report crediting vaccines with diminishing the pandemic’s effects on older Americans. Vaccinations reduced COVID-19 infections by 265,000 cases, 107,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries between January and May 2021. In late 2020, the CDC advised that states make people 75 and older, as well as essential workers, eligible for the vaccine. However, DeSantis broke ranks with the federal government, instead clearing those 65 and older and leaving out essential workers until their age cohorts became available.

Ron DeSantis touts his ‘winning’ vaccine plan.

‘They work so hard’: Even best efforts can’t always prevent COVID-19 deaths” via Gary White of The Ledger — Four nurses, covered in yellow, plastic gowns and wearing protective masks and face shields, crowded into the room, taking positions around a man who reclined unconsciously on a hospital bed. The man in his 50s had only entered Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center a day earlier, but he was one of the most urgently ill patients in the medical intensive care unit, a ward filled with patients battling COVID-19. An IV stand set near the bed held nine bags of liquid medications being dispensed by infusion pumps. Four medications were intended to keep the man’s blood pressure at a safe level, and others kept him in a medically induced coma.

Good news: Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 numbers moving in right direction” via Hannah Morse and Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Palm Beach County are continuing a downward trend to some of their lowest levels since hospitals started reporting daily. The 14 area hospitals were treating a total of 245 coronavirus patients as of Tuesday afternoon, the department reported, down from 369 seven days prior. The direst cases are declining, too. Hospitals countrywide reported 94 patients in their intensive care units with respiratory illness. That’s down from 113 seven days before and a high of 227 on Aug. 26.

Lawsuits demand Palm Beach County hospitals give ivermectin to struggling COVID-19 patients” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — Six weeks after Tamara Drock was admitted to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, she is in a medically induced coma and tethered to a ventilator. Her husband, Ryan Drock, pushed them to give his wife ivermectin, a drug that is approved to treat people with conditions caused by parasitic worms, but not for those ravaged by the coronavirus. Hospital officials refused. Drock on Friday filed suit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court to force the hospital to give his wife the drug.

Some COVID-19 quarantine protocols are loosening at Miami-Dade Schools. What about masks?” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Looser COVID-19 quarantine protocols are coming Monday for middle school students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, with more relaxed protocols expected for elementary and K-8 schools in the coming weeks. Starting Monday, students in middle school (excluding K-8 centers) exposed to COVID-19 and are asymptomatic will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days. Instead, their quarantine can be cut short if they test negative with a PCR test administered on or after the fifth day of contact with the infected person. The looser protocols are similar to what the district issued for high school students several weeks ago. Under the new rules, students who have symptoms or test positive will still have to quarantine.

Carvalho asks Florida to apply for federal funds to meet ‘moral imperative’ in schools” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County Public Schools has sent a letter to Florida’s education commissioner asking him to request the billions of dollars in federal funds that are available to help school districts address the needs of students during the pandemic. The school district of Miami-Dade County is still waiting for $800 million in funds for its traditional public schools, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Wednesday during a news conference at the district’s headquarters in Miami.

Brevard School Board votes to keep mask mandate; audience removed from meeting” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — The Brevard County School Board voted 3-2 against allowing parents to opt out of the district’s mask mandate after all audience members were removed from a Tuesday special meeting because of an outburst toward board member Jennifer Jenkins. During the meeting, School Board member Katye Campbell and Vice-Chair Matt Susin moved to end the mandate but did not gain the support of Board Chair Misty Belford, Jenkins or member Cheryl McDougall. Campbell and Susin argued that COVID-19 data does not support the idea that the mask slowed transmission of the virus because cases in schools saw a decrease in the days before the board passed the mandate on Aug. 30.

Broward County Schools wrestle with both mask mandates and rowdy audiences.

The Duval School District almost ended its mask mandate. Then it looked at the COVID-19 data again” via Claire Heddles of Health News Florida — Duval County’s school Superintendent briefly considered ending the school district’s mask mandate until she saw data showing that COVID-19 is still spreading more than she thought. On Friday, Superintendent Diana Greene wrote to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran saying that the mask mandate will remain in place, despite a state rule against it. An emergency health rule issued Sept. 22 requires districts to let parents opt out of mask mandates at their “sole discretion.” Currently, parents can opt out of Duval’s mandate only with a doctor’s signature. Corcoran had told Duval school officials he was giving them “one more opportunity to come into compliance,” or he would carry out threats to withhold school board salaries.

— 2022 —

Assignment editorsCharlie Crist will join a group of Broward County leaders for a news conference announcing their endorsement, 10 a.m. RSVP to [email protected] for location.

Trulieve merger with Harvest Health spotlights Nikki Fried’s ongoing ethical conflict” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Fried still owned $130,000 in Harvest Health stock as of last month, a financial stake she initially attempted to hide from the public through the improper use of a blind trust. In mid-2019, the Florida legislature passed a bill outlawing the practice of hiding assets in a blind trust, forcing Fried to disclose the conflict of interest. Now, Fried attempted to neutralize the scandal by promising to divest herself of the Harvest Health/Trulieve stock ownership, but only if she wins the Governor’s race. But that pledge to rid herself of the conflict “if” she becomes Governor begs the question: why wait? If it’s a significant ethical conflict if elected, it’s clearly already a serious ethical conflict now.

Does Nikki Fried have an ethics problem?

Ben Diamond raises $300K in Q3 in race for CD13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — State Rep. Diamond has raised nearly $700,000 since launching his campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, his campaign announced Wednesday. That fundraising includes $300,000 collected during the third quarter, which closed last week. Diamond’s campaign provided the latest finance update. More information on other candidates will be available when required campaign finance disclosures are filed with the Federal Elections Commission, due Oct. 15. According to his campaign, nearly half the contributors during the last fundraising quarter were first-time donors to Diamond. Roughly 50% of the donors also gave $100 or less.

Judge revives lawsuit against secretive group that paid for ads in high-stakes Senate race” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A Democratic lawmaker will get a second chance to force a secretive political group to reveal the donors who helped fund advertisements in a key Central Florida Senate race last year after the Orlando Sentinel identified the possible leader of the group. On Wednesday, a judge in Miami-Dade County gave an extra 60 days for state Sen. Annette Taddeo to serve a lawsuit she filed against “Floridians for Equality and Justice,” which sent mailers last year attacking Democrat Patricia Sigman during last year’s Senate District 9 election without ever disclosing its contributors.

Jessica Baker adds John Rutherford and Mike Waltz to list of endorsers” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Baker continues to draw major endorsements for her campaign for House District 12. “Jessica Baker is a strong conservative who possesses the right character and experience to be our next state Representative,” said Rutherford, who represents Florida’s 4th Congressional District. “Floridians deserve conservative leaders in Tallahassee who will fight for the safety of our hardworking families and communities,” said Waltz, who represents CD 6 to the south of Jacksonville. These endorsements follow ones from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams. A common thread: three of the four endorsers have worked with Baker’s husband, Tim Baker, a prolific political consultant in this region and beyond. Williams is the exception.

Happening tonight:

Republican Richard Santos seeks open seat in HD 29” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Santos is mounting a campaign for the seat opening in Seminole County’s House District 29. That seat is vacated by term-limited Republican Rep. Scott Plakon after the 2022 election. His wife, Republican Rachel Plakon, had established herself early as a favorite to succeed him. Not so fast, Santos, a master deputy in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and a military veteran, says. He praised Plakon’s representation but said he’d done enough. There is another Republican in the field, Luther “Luke” Dowe, who ran against Plakon in the 2020 Primary, losing with just 17% of the vote.

Republican-leaning voters in Palm Beach County turned against Trump. Florida GOP unfazed” via Chris Persaud of the Palm Beach Post — A Palm Beach Post review of election records and interviews with more than a dozen voters suggests discontent with the 45th president has brewed in country clubs, yoga studios and higher-end neighborhoods where Republican presidential candidates once dominated. That is the case even here, in Palm Beach County, where Trump cast his ballot a year ago in his new home state, which he comfortably won, and where he remains zealously popular among the GOP base. But even as he trounced Biden in the Sunshine State, Trump’s margins in precincts comfortably won by predecessor Republican nominees either shrank or went underwater.

— CORONA NATION —

While U.S. summer surge is waning, more mandates in the works” via John Seewer of The Associated Press — Across the nation, deaths per day have dropped by nearly 15% since mid-September and are now averaging about 1,750. New cases have fallen to just over 103,000 per day on average, a 40% decline over the past three weeks. What’s behind the decline isn’t entirely clear, though health experts point out that the numbers are falling as more are people getting vaccinated and new requirements for the shot are being put in place by government and private employers. The decrease in case numbers could also be due to the virus running out of susceptible people in some areas.

The summer surge is waning. Are mandates far behind?

The White House said it will spend $1 billion to increase the supply of rapid at-home tests.” via Noah Weiland of The New York Times — By December, 200 million rapid tests will be available to Americans each month, with tens of millions more arriving on the market in the coming weeks, Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator, said at a news conference. Zients also said the administration would double the number of sites in the federal government’s free pharmacy testing program, to 20,000. The changes reflect the administration’s growing emphasis on at-home testing as a tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19. President Joe Biden in September said that he would use the Defense Production Act to increase the production of rapid testing kits and would work with retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, to expand their availability.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Eviction confusion, again: End of U.S. ban doesn’t cause spike” via Anita Snow of The Associated Press — After a slow start, the pace to distribute the first $25 billion installment of $46.5 billion in rental assistance is picking up. Treasury Department officials said the program had served 420,000 households in August — up from 340,000 in July — and distributed $7.7 billion since January. Spending in Florida increased from $60.9 million in July to $141.4 million in August. Landlord advocacy groups have encouraged members not to evict tenants who have applied for government funds to pay their back rent, but owners don’t always follow that suggestion. Smaller property owners, in particular, have struggled for months to pay their mortgages and taxes, with many tenants not paying rent. Many have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.

Lifting the ban on evictions only leads to more chaos. Image via AP.

Flush with COVID-19 aid, schools steer funding to sports” via Collin Binkley and Ryan J. Foley of The Associated Press — One Wisconsin school district built a new football field. In Iowa, a high school weight room is getting a renovation. Another in Kentucky is replacing two outdoor tracks — all of this funded by the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief Congress sent to schools this year. The money is part of a $123 billion infusion intended to help schools reopen and recover from the pandemic. But with few limits on how the funding can be spent, The Associated Press found that some districts have used large portions to cover athletics projects they couldn’t previously afford. Critics say it violates the intent of the legislation. But many schools argue the projects support students’ physical and mental health, one of the objectives allowed by the federal government.

Florida woman got $3.4M COVID-19 grant she never applied for” via The Associated Press — A Florida gas station employee said she’s listed as receiving a $3.4 million COVID-19 relief check that she never applied for and never received. Holly Hill resident Amy Williams said she’s stunned that her name and an outdated address ended up in the federal database stating that she received millions in COVID-19 Restaurant Revitalization Funds for a catering business. Williams never applied for the funds, never received any money, and never worked in the restaurant business. Of the 31 Daytona Beach businesses that received the COVID-19 relief funds, Williams is at the top, allegedly receiving the biggest check for a catering business she does not have, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Moderna founders make Forbes list of America’s richest during pandemic” via Ellen Francis of The Washington Post — At least three people with a stake in the coronavirus vaccine race have just made a list of the top 400 wealthiest people in America. Moderna’s chairman, Noubar Afeyan, one of the U.S. biotech company’s founders; along with board member Robert Langer, also a co-founder; and early investor Timothy Springer each made their debut in this year’s tally produced by business magazine Forbes. Despite the pandemic’s toll on many businesses, the 400 richest Americans this year are, together, 40% richer than last year’s ultrarich, making the cutoff to get on the list higher than ever, according to the publication. And the list featured the most new names it has had since 2007, many of them billionaires in finance, tech and health care.

— MORE CORONA —

CDC warns unvaccinated travelers to delay domestic trips until they are fully vaccinated” via Morgan Hines of USA Today — Unvaccinated Americans should delay planned trips within the country until fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the CDC said Monday in an update to its domestic travel guidance. “People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine, or a vaccine authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization can travel safely within the United States,” the CDC said. While the health agency warned against travel for unvaccinated people, it said that “if you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s recommendations for people who are not fully vaccinated,” referencing guidance for unvaccinated domestic travelers.

The CDC suggests staying at home. Image via AP.

The great book shortage of 2021, explained” via Constance Grady of Vox — If there’s a particular book you’ve got your eye on for the holidays, it’s best to order it now. The problems with the supply chain are coming for books, too. “Think of the inputs that go into a book,” says Matt Baehr, executive director of the Book Manufacturers’ Institute. “There’s paper, there’s ink, and there’s getting the book from point A to point B. All of those things are affected.” The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbating existing problems in the global supply chain for nearly two years now. Add to that pressure a global labor shortage, a paper shortage, the consolidation of the American printing industry, and an increased demand for books from bored stay-at-homers across the U.S., and you’re faced with a book shortage.

Hey Tampa Bay, where are our Uncrustables? And other snacks gone AWOL” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — There’s a particularly plaintive pandemic-related consumer complaint currently playing out on Facebook and Twitter: Oh, Uncrustables. Where have you gone? If you are unfamiliar, Uncrustables are crustless sandwiches made by Smucker’s, crimped at the edges, and filled with peanut butter and jelly, jam or honey. (Other varieties exist, but die-hards will tell you these are the ones that matter.) Uncrustables have amassed what appears to be a cult following of voracious teenagers, busy parents, and devotees of easy comfort foods. Some who, according to social media posts, stand in frozen food aisles staring at emptied shelves. “Little did I know these little pockets of goodness would become so valuable and so elusive,” local fan Angela Soiferman told me via email.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden’s approval rating isn’t bouncing back” via Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight — On July 20, Biden’s average job approval rating stood at 52.3%, and his average disapproval rating stood at 42.5% — numbers that were fairly representative of his first semester. By Aug. 30, more Americans disapproved of Biden’s job performance than approved of it, and on Sept. 8, his approval/disapproval spread was 45.0% to 49.1%. At the time, we theorized that Biden’s approval rating might recover before too long, especially once the news cycle moved on from the crisis in Afghanistan. But we’re now more than a month removed from Biden’s difficult August, and there have been no signs of a rebound in his approval rating. At the end of the day, on Oct. 5, Biden’s approval/disapproval spread was 44.8% to 47.9%.

Joe Biden’s popularity is worse than many people thought. Image via AP.

Biden eyes a trim and slash approach for cutting down his reconciliation bill” via Laura Barron-Lopéz, Natasha Korecki, and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — The White House is seriously entertaining the idea of across-the-board haircuts to most items in Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending package. But even if the trim-everything strategy is predominantly employed, some programs would likely still have to be cut out completely. Which ones remain a topic of intense internal party debate, as Democrats look to find the best path forward to quickly pass the massive social and climate spending bill. The debate over whether to create a bevy of new short-term programs or a handful of more ongoing programs has quickly become one of the Democrats’ most urgent issues as they craft Biden’s package.

Biden, China’s Xi Jinping expected to meet virtually by year’s end” via Jamey Keaten and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — With tensions rising between the global powers, Biden and Xi are expected to hold a virtual meeting before year’s end, according to the White House. The agreement in principle for the talks was disclosed after White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi met for six hours in Zurich. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the two sides are still working through what the virtual meeting “would look like.” A White House statement on the Swiss meeting said Sullivan stressed to Yang the need to maintain open lines of communication, while raising concerns about China’s recent military provocations against Taiwan, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and Beijing’s efforts to squelch pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping agree to FaceTime soon. Image via Reuters.

Biden closes in on pick to lead FDA” via Adam Cancryn, Sarah Owermohle, David Lim, and Lauren Gardner of POLITICO — The Biden administration is closing in on a nominee to lead the FDA. The White House was nearing a final pick anyway, but National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins‘ Tuesday announcement that he would step down accelerated the timeline, according to one person with knowledge of the matter. Asked whether he had an FDA nominee, Biden told reporters on Tuesday that “We’ll be talking about that in a little bit.” The next FDA commissioner will help shepherd the country to the eventual end to the COVID-19 pandemic, overseeing the scientists vetting vaccines, drugs and tests to protect against, treat and identify the disease.

Biden announces historic nominations to lead the nation’s top two cultural agencies” via Peggy McGlone of The Washington Post — Biden plans to nominate Maria Rosario Jackson as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and Shelly Lowe as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the White House announced Tuesday. Both selections are historic: Lowe will be the first Native American nominated to lead the federal humanities agency and Jackson will be the first African American and Mexican American nominated to run the arts endowment. The NEH and the NEA were created in 1965 to support the nation’s cultural landscape. In a statement released last week, Biden emphasized his support for the cultural sector, including adding to the $16.25 billion Shuttered Venues Operator Grants program and providing $135 million for each agency in the American Rescue Plan.

— EPILOGUE TRUMP —

How tight is Donald Trump’s grip on the GOP? Take a look at the Ohio Senate primary” via Michael C. Bender of The Wall Street Journal — Five of the six contenders in next May’s GOP primary offer slightly different variations on the former President’s persona to voters — as well as to Trump himself. All have made pilgrimages to his South Florida estate seeking an endorsement. The lineup shows how Trump has only enhanced his influence among Republicans in the eight months since he grudgingly left office. The Ohio contest is one of a handful likely to determine control of the Senate, and what happens there could be a leading indicator of the viability of Trumpism without Trump on the ballot. The outcome will provide essential data points on Trump’s own decision about whether to run for President again in 2024 and what it will mean if he does.

Donald Trump has Ohio Republicans in a political chokehold. Image via Reuters.

Nikki Haley, in a shift, says 2024 candidacy not dependent on whether Trump runs” via Dylan Stableford and John Ward of Yahoo News — Haley changed her tune this week on a possible 2024 presidential bid, saying she will make a decision to run that is not dependent on whether former Trump has decided to seek another term himself. Showing just how delicately Republican presidential hopefuls have to dance in the shadow of Trump, the former U.N. ambassador told The Wall Street Journal that the ex-President is a friend whom she’d consult before launching her own White House bid. But she also said she disagrees with him that the 2020 election was stolen. In April, however, Haley appeared ready to let a Trump presidency happen again, telling The Associated Press that she wouldn’t run for President in 2024 if he did.

Here’s exactly why Republicans are afraid to criticize Trump” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — Trump’s control of the GOP is near-total. So dominant — and domineering — a figure does the former President cut within the Republican Party that almost no elected official is willing to criticize even his most outlandish claims. New data from Pew makes abundantly clear why. More than 6 in 10 (63%) Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think that the party should not accept elected officials who openly criticize Trump. Compare that to the 6 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say their side should be at least somewhat accepting of elected officials who criticize Biden, and you have some sense of just how much the Republican Party has devolved into a simple cult of personality.

The election that could break America” via Barton Gellman of The Atlantic — In this election year of plague and recession and catastrophized politics, the mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down. Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity. The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. Let us not hedge about one thing. Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede.

Stephanie Grisham says when Trump ‘needed someone to tell him how awesome he was’ he’d call Matt Gaetz, who would ‘sing for his supper‘” via  Insider’s Eliza Relman for Insider — Grisham, former White House press secretary, wrote in her new memoir that White House staffers believed GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz ‘would do anything’ for former President Donald Trump. Grisham said Trump’s aides would get Gaetz on the phone to give the president pep talks or run interference on news shows. ‘We all knew that whenever Trump needed someone to defend him on TV on anything, Gaetz was our boy,’ Grisham wrote in ‘I’ll Take Your Questions Now.’”

— CRISIS —

Tampa Oath Keeper stays jailed after judge finds he threatened cops” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Jeremy Michael Brown is a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and one-time congressional candidate in Tampa. He’s also a self-identified member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group. Prosecutors say he was among the rioting crowd on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, where he was photographed in military garb, a tactical vest, and carrying surgical shears and zip ties. When federal agents searched his Palm River area home last week, they said they found a short-barrel rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition and two hand grenades.

Just an average day for former congressional candidate Jeremy Michael Brown — stockpiling weapons and threatening cops.

Former Donald Trump DOJ No. 2 sits for interview with Jan. 6 committee” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — Richard Donoghue appeared for a closed-door interview on Friday with the select panel investigating Jan. 6, according to two sources familiar with the matter. One of the panel’s first, the interview comes as its investigators accelerate their probe of the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Donoghue’s tenure at the Justice Department in the final days of the Trump administration has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers as they explore the former President’s attempts to pressure the department to interfere in the 2020 election. The panel also faces key deadlines this week in its investigation. Some of the former President’s closest aides and advisers have been given until Thursday to provide documents related to the attack.

House committee investigating Jan. 6 can’t find Trump aide to serve subpoena” via Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen and Annie Grayer of CNN — More than a week after subpoenaing former Trump aide Dan Scavino to cooperate with its investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the House select committee investigating the attack has been unable to physically serve the subpoena to him, according to multiple sources familiar with the effort. The news comes just days before the committee’s deadline for Scavino and three other close allies of the former President to comply with subpoenas requesting documents by Oct. 7 and deposition by Oct. 15. Scavino did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. One source familiar with the situation joked that the committee should just tweet the subpoena to the former Trump aide since he’s been actively trolling the panel there in recent days.

Congress would like to talk to Dan Scavino. They have to find him first. Image via NYT.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Jan. 6 shows what happens ‘when people are being lied to about the elections’” via Michael Schnell of The Hill — Former California Gov. Schwarzenegger said the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol illustrates what happens “when people are being lied to about the elections,” referencing the noteworthy video he released that compared the riots to Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, which is considered to be one of the events that led to the Holocaust. Schwarzenegger also said paramilitary members and civilians who demolished synagogues, homes and Jewish-owned businesses during Kristallnacht were “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.” In the video Schwarzenegger released in August, which garnered a considerable amount of attention, the Governor said: “Wednesday was the day of broken glass right here in the United States.”

Middleburg couple plead guilty to participating in Jan. 6 riot at U.S. Capitol” via Eric Wallace of News4Jax — Clay County residents Rachael Lynn Pert, 40, and Dana Joe Winn, 45, appeared before a D.C. federal judge via videoconference and each entered a guilty plea to one count of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. That carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. But their estimated sentencing guidelines range is 0-6 months in prison. They had previously faced a total of five counts, each related to the Capitol siege. In pleading guilty, they agree that the “statement of offense” accurately describes their actions and involvement in the offense to which they are pleading guilty. Their sentencings are set for Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. in federal court in D.C.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Democrats weigh filibuster change to solve debt ceiling fight” via Carl Hulse of The New York Times — Senate Democrats increasingly see the Republican blockade against raising the federal debt limit as clear justification for changing the chamber’s filibuster rule, a long shot effort that so far has lacked the unanimous support within their ranks needed to succeed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Democrats, who control Congress and the presidency and are proposing trillions in future spending, must supply all the votes for such an increase, but he and other Republicans have filibustered their attempts to do so. “More and more people are drawing that conclusion,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois. “I think people feel the supermajority on the debt ceiling is a bridge too far.”

The debt ceiling just may have Democrats ditch the current filibuster rules. Image via AP.

Democratic allies urge Stephanie Murphy to support budget bill for its health care provisions” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — An alliance of Democratic-allied groups supporting retirees pressed U.S. Rep. Murphy Wednesday to vote for the multi-trillion dollar budget bill because of the health care provisions within in. Advocates offered the proposed expansions for Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs Wednesday as obvious reasons the Winter Park Democrat should support the Build Back Better Act, not leaning toward a no vote, as Murphy has said. The forum included leaders of the Florida Education Association-Retired and the Florida Council of Churches.

Gwen Graham confirmed as Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The U.S. Senate confirmed Graham Wednesday to be Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs for the Department of Education. Biden nominated Graham for the role in April, and no resistance to her nomination manifested. Upon her nomination, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona hailed Biden’s pick. “Graham brings decades of invaluable experience as a public education leader, federal legislator, and public servant to this role,” he said. Graham is a political legacy. She is the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. Her truncated career in the U.S. Congress, a casualty of redistricting in 2016, led to her run for Governor. Graham was the front-runner in most polls of the race, though former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum ultimately won the nomination.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Broward County leaders lobbying for Surfside-inspired changes to condo laws” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics+ — Why a 12-story Surfside condominium collapsed into rubble in the predawn hours of June 24 is still undetermined, but much about what preceded those fateful moments has since emerged. Reports of the infighting over the cost of $9 million in repairs on the condo association board of Champlain Towers South have led to new inspections requirements for older condos in Miami-Dade County and Boca Raton. And a Broward County task force has come up with 17 suggestions for changing Florida law that hit legislators’ inboxes this past week. Those recommendations result from 27 hours of discussions among lawmakers, city leaders, condo association boards, condo lawyers, land use experts and a structural engineer, Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said.

Broward elected officials say gaps remain in effort to stop the next school shooting” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — More than three years after the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, local and state officials from Broward County say more needs to be done to keep Florida’s schoolchildren safe. The Legislature has passed multiple pieces of safety legislation since the 2018 attack, which killed 17 people and injured 17 more. But at a joint meeting Wednesday between the Broward County legislative delegation and Broward County School Board, officials said funding and recruitment gaps remain, and existing safety measures are not being fully implemented. A law passed after the 2018 Parkland shooting requires Florida’s schools to have at least one safety officer on each campus.

Can Florida close security gaps before the next school shooting?

Ballot drop box changes kick in with city elections next month in Central Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Voters in upcoming municipal elections next month can expect changes in how ballot drop boxes work, especially in Lake County where the U.S. Postal Service will now be involved. Despite his praise of Florida’s smooth 2020 election process, the law pushed by DeSantis includes major changes to drop boxes, mail-in ballots, and voter registration. Instead of 24-hour, video-monitored drop boxes at early voting sites, the law mandates those drop boxes can only be available during early voting hours. Boxes at elections offices must now be monitored by an employee at all times.

Duval public middle school promotes Christian Bible event, prompting community concern” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — A public middle school in Jacksonville is receiving blowback after encouraging its students to bring Bibles to class. Tuesday evening, LaVilla School of the Arts, part of the Duval County Public Schools family, announced Bring Your Bible to School Day would take place on Thursday. The event, which specifically supports Christianity, purports itself as a “nationwide, student-led movement … to celebrate our religious freedoms.” Parents and community members quickly responded in the comments section, asking why the event only promoted one religion and criticized the premise of incorporating religion on public school campuses at all.

Tampa Bay Rays donate $50,000 to St. Petersburg mayoral hopeful Ken Welch” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — The Tampa Bay Rays made a $50,000 contribution to Welch’s campaign to be the next mayor of St. Petersburg. Welch said he asked the Rays for “something comparable to the contribution of Rick Kriseman because I’ve been just as strong as a proponent on the County Commission,” referencing his 20-year tenure on the Pinellas board. The donation is not yet reflected in his reports, but Welch said it will be listed Sunday.

Huge — “Star stock picker Cathie Wood moves NYC firm to Florida” via The Associated Press — Wood is a well-known analyst, and founder and CEO of ARK Investment Management LLC. The company said in a news release that the new headquarters will be opening in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, on Nov. 1. “We believe the Tampa Bay region’s talent, innovative spirit, and quality of life will accelerate our growth initiatives,” Wood said in the release. The company said a substantial number of employees have chosen to relocate and work in the office, but also added that its hybrid back-to-work model as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will allow employees to work from other locations and enjoy “a better work-life balance.”

Cathie Wood is pulling up stakes and moving ARK Investment Management LLC to the Burg.

Man who pulled gun amid Walmart face mask spat says PBSO defamed him on social media, files lawsuit” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — A 30-year-old Greenacres-area man, who made global headlines after he pulled a gun on a fellow Walmart shopper during an argument over face masks has sued Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for defamation and malicious prosecution. Vincent Scavetta claims Bradshaw’s decision to trumpet his arrest on social media damaged his reputation, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Palm Beach County circuit court. Further, even though prosecutors declined to pursue charges against Scavetta, Bradshaw didn’t remove the posts about his arrest from the agency’s Twitter or other social media accounts.

Happening today — FSU Institute of Politics presents “Strengthening American Democracy: Overcoming the Challenges Women Face in Running for Office” a virtual presentation from Christina Reynolds, the vice president of EMILY’s List, 8:30 p.m., Zoom link here.

— TOP OPINION —

What we lost when Gannett came to town” via Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic — When people lament the decline of small newspapers, they tend to emphasize the most important stories that will go uncovered: political corruption, school-board scandals, zoning-board hearings, police misconduct. They are right to worry. But often overlooked are the more quotidian stories, the ones that disappear first when a paper loses resources: stories about the Teddy Bear Picnic, the town-hall meeting about the new swimming-pool design, and the tractor games during Denmark Heritage Days. These stories are the connective tissue of a community; they introduce people to their neighbors, and they encourage readers to listen to and empathize with one another. When that tissue disintegrates, something vital rots away. As local news crumbles, so does our tether to one another.

— OPINIONS —

Here’s what it will take to end the COVID-19 pandemic” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — As the delta surge appears to be receding and new COVID-19 cases have declined by more than a third since Sept. 1, the chance of a return to normal, while not guaranteed, is within grasp. What will it take to finally put this public health crisis behind us? We should acknowledge two realities: First, it’s unlikely we will see the virus suddenly become less lethal. Second, while we should continue to try to achieve population immunity through widespread vaccination, we will likely not be able to suppress infections to very low levels any time soon. We must have vaccines available for younger children. We need oral, outpatient treatment for COVID-19. We must have free, readily available rapid tests.

Biden’s focus on climate ignores slave labor” via Marco Rubio for the Washington Examiner — By nearly all accounts, the Biden administration is choosing to ignore the Chinese Communist Party’s egregious human rights abuses to strike a deal on climate. In other words, it is willing to accept Beijing’s use of arbitrary detention on an unimaginable scale, slave labor, systematic rape, coercive abortion, forced sterilization, organ harvesting, and more because, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, “climate is an overriding issue.” Not only is such a position immoral, but it also willfully ignores that Beijing has no desire to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. In fact, despite making climate-related pledges in the past, the Chinese Communist Party is building coal-fired power plants at a stunning rate.

Look, Trump won Florida — period. Squash GOP’s talk about auditing 2020 election, DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Talk about a ridiculous waste of time and money. Republicans in Lake County are calling for an Arizona-style audit of Florida’s 2020 election in a pointless attempt to see whether Trump, who won Florida in 2020, actually won the state by a larger margin. Trump got 51% of the vote, considered a blowout in a narrow-margin state like this one. But that hasn’t deterred the Lake County Republican Executive Committee, which is pushing for an audit, claiming that a “majority” of citizens doubt that the Nov. 3 election was fair and doubt the results in Lake County, the state and the country.

DeSantis needs to come down hard on the GOP’s fringe” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — DeSantis has no trouble speaking his mind when he believes it’s called for, or even sometimes when it isn’t. He now has a clear opportunity to forcefully use his voice in public service to all the people of Florida. The Lake County Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution calling for an election audit. The committee “demands” that the Legislature conduct an “immediate, open, transparent and independent full forensic audit, including a hand recount” of Lake County and the entire state. DeSantis could flash some of his famous impatience. DeSantis could put the lunatic fringe of his party on notice that he has no tolerance for garbage.

Science closes in on COVID-19’s origins” via Richard Muller and Steven Quay of The Wall Street Journal — Based on the scientific evidence alone, an unbiased jury would be convinced that SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus escaped after being created in a laboratory using accelerated evolution and gene splicing on the backbone of a bat coronavirus. Using standard statistical methods, we can quantify the likelihood of the lab-leak hypothesis compared with that of zoonosis. The odds enormously favor a lab leak, far more significant than the 99% confidence usually required for a revolutionary scientific discovery. The WHO is launching yet another investigation. Why? The studies have been done. The research exists. We have an eyewitness, a whistleblower who escaped from Wuhan and carried details of the pandemic’s origin that the Chinese Communist Party can’t hide. The whistleblower’s name is SARS-CoV-2.

Desmond Meade deserves the respect that Florida denies him” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation last week awarded Meade one of its 2021 Genius Grants. Three years ago, Meade led the successful statewide ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment to modernize Florida’s 19th-century system for restoring the civil rights of ex-felons. In choosing this year’s class, the foundation especially focused on climate and race, after the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests. Meade is a worthy recipient of the $625,000 award. Meade formed the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The group got enough signatures to get Amendment 4 on the 2018 ballot.

Sharp increases in flood insurance threaten waterfront lifestyle” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics+ — The lure of Florida beachfront property can be irresistible, and it’s a big part of the magic of living here. Depending on where they live in the state, homeowners can enjoy unmatched scenery when the sun rises or sets. The tranquility of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect tonic after a tough day. And who, of course, can resist the feel of beach sand between their toes? I understand why people want to live as close to the water as they can. But should residents who live farther inland have to subsidize that lifestyle through higher flood insurance rates? That doesn’t seem fair, especially since rebuilding after coastal flooding can be extremely expensive.

Eric Diaz-Padron: Support for electric vehicles grows as cities grapple with climate change” via Florida Politics — While electric vehicles alone are not the answer to climate change, they do provide a way to lower costs of operating municipal fleets and expediting storm recovery while reducing air pollution that threatens public health. The good news is nearly two-thirds of voters, including 56% of Independents and 50% of Republicans, support U.S. automakers transitioning to zero-emission vehicles. By 2030, consumers investing in electric vehicles will save more than $7,200 per car, compared to a traditional gasoline-powered automobile, a critical cost savings for families. DeSantis has invested in, and Miami-Dade County public schools have already begun to transition outdated pollution belching diesel buses to EV. This smart policy has strong support 62% of Floridians support.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Some in Florida’s congressional delegation make a pitch to rename a federal courthouse after the state’s first Black Supreme Court Justice.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— When there are no natural predators for an invasive species — making population control a sport, is one creative solution.

— And many students are taking the risk by packing college football stadiums, but is it causing a spike in COVID-19 infections?

— Back-to-back Sunrise interviews: First, an exclusive scoop on a story that examines whether college football games are causing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Fresh Take Florida reporter Elisabell Velazquez joins us to share her findings.

— Also, Florida Politics reporter Jason Delgado talks about a bipartisan effort to rename a federal courthouse in Tallahassee after the late Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchet.

— Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announces the top predators in the invasive Lionfish Challenge. Public Information Specialist Amanda Nalley joins the program to explain.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

‘Game of Thrones’ prequel official teaser is here” via Lisa Respers France of CNN — The official teaser for “House of the Dragon” has dropped and get ready for all types of action. The “Game of Thrones” sequel looks dark, fiery and a bit of a balm to those missing “GOT” based on the teaser. “Gods. Kings. Fire. Blood,” the caption read on the teaser on YouTube. The Targaryen-focused spin-off comes to HBO Max, which is owned by CNN’s parent company, in 2022.

To watch the teaser, click on the image below:

Comcast CEO optimistic about Universal theme parks post-pandemic” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics+ — Last year was the biggest economic disaster the theme park industry has ever faced. Orlando theme parks shut down for months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking a multibillion-dollar hit. But as Comcast CEO Brian Roberts spoke to investors Wednesday, his tone was undeniably optimistic as he answered questions about Universal parks’ future and the ongoing recovery. His enthusiasm comes during a week of particularly good news for Universal parks. The United States announced its loosening restrictions on international flights this fall. Meanwhile, visitors flocked to be the first to see Universal Beijing — which is three times larger than Universal’s Hollywood park — during Monday’s grand opening.

Will Florida be ready for its massive projected space growth?” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics+ — Military, state and business officials talk about a time in the not too distant future — maybe five years out — when hundreds of rockets might be launching from Cape Canaveral every year. Some of the world’s largest satellite and rocket factories would be located around the Space Coast, along with more aerospace factories and supply-chain businesses with thousands of new employees commuting from across Brevard County and much of the Orlando metro area. What might that look like? Not in the sky, but on the ground? What would it look like at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Space Florida’s aerospace industrial and office parks?

Florida lifts 30-year ban on catching goliath grouper” via The Associated Press — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a proposal to allow recreational harvest of 200 goliaths per year from March to May. South Florida and the Florida Keys will be off-limits, and the size of the catch will be restricted to between 20 inches and 36 inches. The proposal is supported by fishing groups, and it calls for a lottery to issue licenses that allow each recipient to catch and kill one goliath. The goliath almost died off in the 1980s from overfishing and pollution and is not permitted to be caught in any other state or federal waters. Critics who oppose lifting the fishing ban argue that the fish’s numbers remain below historic levels and appear to be plateauing or decreasing.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are Mark Logan, Randy Osborne, our friend, the man with perfect diction Jon Peck of Sachs Media Group, and Tom Philpot.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
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